Feb 4th: Loneliness and Belonging, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
A Part of the Series:
Loneliness and Belonging with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Holy Friendships A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Genesis 2:18.
Join us on Sunday as Rev. Dr. Steven Koski celebrates the First Presbyterian Church community and emphasizes that community and belonging are essential to human well-being, as God intended humans not to be alone.
Steven: We’re growing as a church. But our denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA has experienced a 50% decline in membership in the last 30 years. Seven out of 10 Americans today say, say that they can have a relationship with God and grow spiritually, without ever been part of a community of faith. I mean, more and more people are saying they are spiritual but not religious, the fastest growing religious group in the country is the group called the nuns not not n u n. But N O N Yes, that claim no religious affiliation. I mean, people often tell me that they feel closer to God in nature, than anywhere else, I get that. I too frequently have a deep, deep sense of the sacred. When I’m in nature. You know, it’s easy. It’s easy to experience the sacred in nature, it’s a lot, it’s a lot harder to encounter God to encounter the holy in the person sitting next to you in the pew, whose theology and politics are different than yours, who perhaps comes from a different economic background, or someone who’s raised sexual orientation, gender identity is, is different than yours. It’s easy, it’s easy to see and encounter God. In nature, it’s a whole lot harder to see the image of God. And the loud, belligerent person with terrible body odor, who’s standing beside you singing the same hymn, but in a totally different key. Learning to be in community with others, others that you have not necessarily chosen. To be part of your community is really hard work. But maybe that hard work, of learning to see, encounter the holy love one another is the very thing that has a chance to heal this broken, despairing divided world of ours. civil rights leader Ruby sales, said transformation doesn’t happen in headspace where we, where we share on a superficial level our opinions and offer our judgments from a safe distance. transformation happens in heartspace, where we risk getting close enough to connect and see our shared humanity and the other person. And we say, Tell me your story. Where does it hurt for you? The idea that a community of faith is not important. And that you can do spirituality on your own is actually a radical departure from the spiritual path that God has in mind for us. If we look at the biblical account of creation, God calls calls everything good, except one thing. God identifies one problem in creation that that God has determined to repair. What is it? In Genesis 218, God says, It is not right. For a human being, to be alone. It’s not right for anyone to have dreams, tears or fears that no one else cares, cares about or is willing to share. It’s not right for people to eat every meal by themselves or languish in an assisted living facility without without visitors. It’s not right for anyone to feel judged, excluded, isolated, unwelcome, it’s not right for someone to be without helping hands in times of trouble. It’s not right, to feel invisible, to not feel seen, heard valued. It’s not right for a person to have no one with whom they can truly be themselves. It’s not right to have no one to share a deep, wonderful belly laugh with. It’s not right to have no one who’s willing to sit with you, and the darkness. God says it’s not right. For the human being to be alone. were created to be in relationship were created to be in community the very defining nature of the human soul is how we are connected to the life of other souls. Now Jesus realize the faith journey is not a solo adventure. If you read the gospels, when Jesus invites people to follow him, he never once invited individuals on their own. Jesus always called people in twos and threes. Jesus called people not just into a life of faith, but into a life of faith lived in community. You know, it’s funny how because of our smartphones, we’ve never been more connected at least electronically. And at the same time, we’ve never been more disconnected, divided as a larger community. America is fractured and living in a quiet crisis of disconnection. 54% of Americans 54% of Americans say that no one knows them really well. Has Ruby Well said 50 porpoise. 44% of Americans would say that they may share headspace with many people sharing opinions about politics, sports, the weather. But few if any risk getting close enough to share heartspace or someone risk getting close enough to them to hear their stories. The number of people who say they have no close personal friends has quadrupled in the past two decades, over 60% of adults in the United States report feeling lonely. I was actually surprised to read that young adults, aged 18 to 22 are the loneliest age group. The Surgeon General said loneliness is as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. One in five Americans say they have nobody to talk about important matters, no one who’s there to really talk about the things that really are worth talking about. Dan McNatt McAdams is teaches at Northwestern University. And he studies how people narrate their life stories. And he invites research subjects into his office and over a four hour period. He asked them to tell about their tell him about their low points, their their high points, their their turning points in their lives. And he says every single person at some point in telling this story begins to cry. And when the time is over, he hands them a check to compensate for for the time that they have given him. And he said almost everyone tries to hand the check check back saying this has been one of the best afternoons of my life. No one No one’s ever asked me about my life story before. We all have a deep, a deep need to connect a deep need to connect in the heart space. God says it’s not right for a human being. To be alone to not feel seen to feel disconnected. So God calls us into community into relationship. As hard as it can be. As hard as it can be a commitment to do the hard work of being in community, learning how to see hear and love one another. Just may be the best gift we can give to the world right now. What would it be? What would it be like if you took the time and the risk? To get to know someone else? Someone you don’t know and someone perhaps you perceive? Maybe is lonely? What would it look like? If you took the risk? To let yourself be No. This week marks the 18th anniversary of me serving as the lead pastor here at First Presbyterian. I thought about getting T shirts that would say I survived 18 years of Steven koskie it’s no small feat. I don’t want to celebrate me. I want to celebrate and speak to the extraordinary messy, beautiful, imperfect, spacious, gritty gracefield community called first pres a community that has changed my life. I want to celebrate the unique gifts and challenges that that each person brings to this community into my life. I want to celebrate the ways that this community has has tolerated me when when I’ve said hey, I have an idea. I want to celebrate that you have forgiven me when I I have failed you or, or let you down, which has been often I want to celebrate that you have given me the space to be me, warts and all. I want to celebrate that, that you have disagreed with me. And you’ve been willing to stay in the dialog. I want to celebrate that you’ve been willing to live in the spaciousness of the questions and not demanded answers. I want to celebrate that you’ve given me space, just to be human, to be vulnerable, that you’ve given me the space to, to express my grief. And you have allowed me to cry with you. I want to celebrate that you were there for me and my family. With an abundance of grace, in our scariest moments, I want to celebrate that you have mostly left with me and not at me. I want to celebrate that you have made me feel valued and valuable. You know, those are two needs that every human being has to feel valued, and valuable. I truly believe that one of the reasons there was always a crowd of people around Jesus, always people wanted to get near Jesus, because people felt seen and valued in His presence. I want to celebrate most of all, the way I have witnessed you love others. I was speaking to one of our homeless guests who stayed with us when we opened as a warming shelter a couple of weeks ago it was freezing. And he said, he said I felt I felt seen here. I didn’t feel invisible. Naomi, two two daughter of Desmond Tutu said, To love is to see, to be loved, is to be seen. I haven’t been thinking this past week what may or may not have been accomplished. At first prayers. Over the past 18 years. I’ve been thinking this week, what a gift at his bed, to be in community. With those who consider first pres, their base camp. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes. It’s been really painful. But even in the hard places. I have encountered the holy sacred and healing presence of God’s love in and through this community. I feel the deepest, most spacious and life giving connection with God right now than I have ever felt in my life. And much of that is because of belonging. belonging to this community and the gifts and the quirkiness and the unique stories and beautiful souls that are part of this community. Yeah, we’re a church where we’re, we’re far from perfect. I know you might think you don’t need others to have a relationship with God or, Oh, you might prefer to encounter God and nature. But let me tell you this, there’s something holy, there’s something beautiful and life changing about this strange community called First press. And today, I just want to say how deeply grateful I am. That God has called me into this community. It’s not right, for a human being to be alone. There’s so much trauma, pain and isolation and loneliness disconnection in our world right now. You know, neuroscientists have found that the part of the brain that is most most impacted by life’s trauma actually begins to heal. When we find a community that is a safe place to land, and a safe place to weep and tell our story. It turns out that connection and community heals our hearts and our brains. And I want to finish by sharing a picture. Tobias Baumgartner took this picture of two penguins company to each other. In Melbourne, Australia, watching the dancing lights of the city together. The white penguin is an elderly female who who was widowed and alone. The darker penguin is a much younger male Oh, who had also lost his partner and was was alone. And apparently these two penguins would meet regularly to watch the dancing lights of the city together comforting each other in their grief. This is the world I want to live in. This is the world we can create together. It’s not right for anyone to be alone. May it be so